Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Steam Achievements: A Step in the Right Direction

As I have mentioned many times before, I don't care much about achievements nor trophies. I don't hunt for them and I certainly hardly ever look at the list even after I completed a game because I like to define my own experience playing a game instead of having a "guide" telling me what I need to do to "complete" a game. I have installed the Steam client on my Personal Computer for a long time and never did I know before that some Steam games actually come with achievements. I just noticed it while I was messing around with Osmos. I am still not going to let these achievements hold my hands and tell me what to do in the game but I do notice that they carry a different meaning here. The achievement doesn't tally up to any score on your player profile even though you can browse the "unlocked" achievements by game. Interestingly, there is a "Global Achievements" page that shows how many people within the Steam community have unlocked each of the listed achievements. All of this is actually a step above both the achievement and trophy systems found on the X-Box 360 and the PlayStation 3. I always thought that the 360's achievement system was horrible so when the PS3's trophy system was first announced, I was thrilled. But after realizing that its "difficulty-based" system was just an illusion (every retail game has a Platinum trophy - it's a matter of playing the "right" game), my interest in it soon faltered. Steam's achievement system is definitely more dignified and classy because:

a) The achievements do not have any accumulative assigned value so they are individually more significant instead of being merely a part of a statistic for some unbalanced equation.

b) It's a more precise leaderboard and can be a valid point for bragging rights, especially if you have unlocked an achievement that most people are unable to unlock! Just imagine, instead of saying "Look! 1000 out of 1000!" or "Oh, I got a Platinum trophy!" after going through a list of dull tasks, now you can say "Wow! I'm one of the 0.1% of all players who have this achievement unlocked!" Aah... It's a better world already!

c) There is no achievement/trophy "whoring" since all the achievements are self-contained within each of the games.

I sure hope Steam is going to let this system stay this way for a long time to come.

Simple yet infinitely more meaningful.

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